The Australian Capital Territory has made history by legalising same sex marriage.
By
Santilla Chingaipe

Source
World News Radio
22 Oct 2013 - 5:44 PM  UPDATED 22 Oct 2013 - 6:16 PM

(Transcript of World News Australia Radio)

The Australian Capital Territory has made history by legalising same sex marriage.

However, the legislation may be shortlived, with the federal government indicating that it will challenge the laws in the High Court.

Santilla Chingaipe has more.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

The new laws were passed by the ACT's 17-member Legislative Assembly, making the territory the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise same-sex marriage.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says it's an emotional feeling.

"I think a lot of time in politics, it's long hard work often not seen by the community and then there's moments in your career, moments in time when it was like this morning and it was perfect. There's eight of us (Labor MLAs) standing here who are all of the same mind who all wanted to see marriage equality brought to the ACT and we were able to instantaneously see the response from those who have campaigned long and hard for it and it was a very humbling moment and I don't want to speak for all of my colleagues but that's certainly how I felt in the chamber and in my 12 years in the Chamber, I've haven't seen scenes like it."

The new laws were narrowly passed when the only Greens party member joined the eight Labor members of the Assembly - with the eight opposition Liberal members voting against.

The territory's openly gay deputy Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, told the Assembly it will have a positive effect on many lives.

"Today's legislation continues the tradition of nation leading reforms from the ACT government. Reforms that impact positively on the lives of thousands of Canberrans living in same sex relationships, but reforms that also impact positively on the parents... parents who want their children to live happy, productive and healthy lives without having to experience fear, hate and discrimination."

Greens member Shane Rattenbury called it a landmark moment for the ACT.

"I'm proud to stand for equality and I'm proud to stand for respect, but perhaps most simply, I am proud to stand in support of the notion that two people who love each other should be able to get married. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy getting married."

ACT opposition leader Jeremy Hanson says the Liberals believed it was reckless to be debating a bill that will almost definitely wind up in the High Court.

Mr Hanson also questioned if last-minute amendments moved by Attorney-General Simon Corbell would ensure the bill was constitutional.

"This process is deeply flawed. The question must be asked, why the government is seemingly making complex and difficult law on the run? The amendments - and they are not technical or minor in nature - it is a leap of faith now to accept Simon Corbell's assurances that the amendments will make this bill lawful."

Although same-sex unions are available in a majority of Australian states, marriage comes under federal legislation and same sex couples are not formally recognised as married by the federal government.

Varying legal opinions had made it clear that states and territories could legislate for same-sex marriage but the key question is whether they can avoid inconsistency with the federal Marriage Act.

The ACT's Marriage Equality Act means that gay couples from outside the territory could travel there to be wed by an authorised celebrant

ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell says it will come into effect soon - and he's hopeful it will survive any High Court challenge.

"We expect to commence the legislation probably within the next week to fortnight. It will require to go through the formal certification and notification process here at the Assembly and then it will be placed on the ACT legislation register and at the time that it's placed on the ACT legislation register it takes effect, so that's usually a week to a fortnight away."

And Mr Corbell says the ACT's first same sex weddings could take place by the end of the year.

"It's important to stress that after that point, it will be requirement under the Act as it will now be for couples to give notice of their intention to marry and that's effectively a 30-day notice period, so the earliest we would anticipate ceremonies would be some point in the first couple of weeks of December, but that will depend on the exact date that notification on the register takes place."